Everything Musicians Need to Know about Music Distribution

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Music distribution is the link between your finished record and your future fans.

Distribution is a crucial part of music promotion. Brick and mortar music distributors used to be the only way for record labels and independent artists to get their records in the hands of listeners.

But digital music distribution has taken the center stage. Digital surpassed sales of physical mediums for the first time in 2015.

As an artist, digital distribution has become a must in order to reach all your potential fans. Smart distribution grows your visibility. It gets your music into as many ears as possible. And it helps you get paid for your music.

So here is everything you need to know about digital music distribution and how to do it right.

How Digital Music Distribution Works: Then and Now

Traditionally, distributors got records into stores and labels got people to go buy them (through promotion). Along the way, each of these middlemen took a percentage of the revenue.

This system still exists today. At least to some extent…

But the role of distributors and record labels has changed dramatically. Not to mention the changes the internet has brought in the way people consume music. People spend more time online, and less money on physical music.

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Plus, the resources and energy of physical distributors are often focused on top-selling records only. Smaller bands who sign to them get trapped in exclusive agreements that end up hindering their success.

That’s why digital distribution has become the smart way to get your records out there, keep full rights to your music, and start building a name.

What Is Music Distribution?

Music distribution is how music gets delivered to the listener. Traditionally, distributors enter agreements with record labels to sell to stores. However, digital distribution changed all of that by cutting out the middleman—allowing artists to distribute music directly to online stores while keeping 100% of their royalties.

How Digital Music Distribution Works Today

The goal of digital distribution is to get your music on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and other streaming platforms and digital music stores.

Think of them like a digital record shop—Once you get your music in them, people can stream, download and buy your music. In exchange you receive royalties depending on how and where your music was listened to.

Just like traditional record stores, digital music stores receive music from digital distribution companies. But instead of shipping boxes of vinyl every week, digital distributors deliver digital music to the major music stores I mentioned above.

So what used to take weeks or months of shipping and manufacturing—not to mention a lot of upfront costs—is now as simple and fast as a couple of clicks.

The Best Music Distribution Companies

There are tons of music distribution services out there. Keeping 100% of your royalties is key. Educate yourself on all their fees and what you’re getting into before you decide. Some say they don’t take a cut, but there are hidden fees in some cases. Do your research!

The Many Benefits of Digital Distribution

Why choose digital distribution?

Digital music sells the best, and will continue to rise. The revenues of the music industry make it clear – digital is the way to go. Here are the global revenues of the industry in 2016:

  • 50% from digital revenues
  • 34% from physical format sales (CDs, vinyl, cassettes)
  • 14% from performance rights (radio, shows, etc)
  • 2% from Synchronization revenues (movies and ad syncs)

 

So be strategic. Make your music available where your fans actually hang out: online. You’ll have more chance of reaching them.

Save yourself the costs and hassle of physical distribution – especially on a first album. Start by building an audience and a name with digital releases.

Plus, many digital distributors don’t have exclusivity deals. It means that you’re not giving up the rights to your music. That’s huge. Because if your next record is better represented by another distributor, you’re free to end the non-exclusive agreement anytime.

There’s also added perks like recommendation algorithms. These might suggest your tracks to people based on what they listen to. That’s how people discover new music in the digital world!

 

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